You will have your opinion of Paul McCartney. Like most, it may well be something along the lines of ‘he needs to stop’ or ‘it is getting embarrassing’. If that is your opinion then there might not be much point in you listening to ‘New’, as it certainly isn’t anymore ‘cool’. But this is where I’ve always been a bit confused. No, Paul doesn’t drop any 13 minute post rock soundscapes or deep house cuts, but he has never expressed that level of interest in experimentation. He made his intentions very clear in 1976, he is a writer of ‘Silly Love Songs’.
‘New’ is another collection of near brilliance, not unlike 2007’s ‘Memory Almost Full’. The important word to stress is near brilliance. This album is not without misfires and its overall tone lacks the thematic cohesion of ‘Memory’. This could be in part down to the multiplicity of the production that was led by four producers: Mark Ronson, Giles Martin, Ethan Johns and Paul Epworth. The tracks tend to bounce in dynamic, characterising the record firmly as a collection of disparate songs. This personality means that the more unremarkable tracks, like ‘Appreciate’ blip off the radar during a full listen.
Yet the stretches of remarkable and vivid pop music, that form the bulk of the record, serve to remind how bizarre the culture of grimacing after Paul McCartney performances is. He has always written with a wry romantic voice, seemingly producing melodies that sound like they’ve be sung a million times before the first time you hear them. Oh, I don’t mean that in the negative sense of repetition, I only mean that McCartney takes the most simple materials and makes them sing. In fact I increasingly found, listening to this record, that it was the moments of experimental production, some of which appeared to be riffing off Mylo Xyloto, that I liked the least. The strongest songs, that I can’t leave alone, are the most nostalgic. ‘New’ is a fresh and lively title track but would sit neatly alongside ‘Good Day Sunshine’ or ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’. ‘On My Way To Work’ with its openly wistful lyricism, would find a comfortable companion in McCartney’s sections of ‘A Day In The Life’. In fact much of the album is spent looking back, but in celebration of where it has led, “What a good thing, it turned out to be.”
If you are complaining about Paul McCartney being corny then my question is, when has he not been? This is the man who wrote both ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ and the ‘We All Stand Together’ (more commonly known as ‘The Frog Chorus’). But he also wrote ‘Martha My Dear’, ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ and ‘Yesterday’. ‘New’ is largely representative of the multifaceted nature of his song writing, bursting with amazing ideas. Some you will forget altogether, but some that will make you dance, some that will make you laugh and some that might make you cry. He is writing ‘silly love songs’. Nothing new about that.
Words: Angus Harrison